The Witch Tests of the Salem Witch Trials

Witch tests and torture were often used during the Salem Witch Trial, in the hope of getting the accused to confess to practicing witchcraft. The Puritans of colonial Massachusetts lived by a strict moral code. Their lives were ruled by the church, and conformity and restraint were valued above all else. Puritans believed that witchcraft was the work of the Devil, and that it brought great evil into their communities that needed to be stopped.

In 1692 an elderly farmer named Giles Corey was arrested as a suspected witch. He refused to enter a plea, so after a period of imprisonment, he was subjected to pressing. This method of torture involves placing boards on the victim, then placing heavy stones on the boards, one at a time, until the accused confesses or dies. In the case of Giles Corey, he still refused to enter a plea. He was eventually crushed to death by the weight of the stones.

The Lord's Prayer Test
Sometimes the accused were asked to recite the Lord's Prayer. It was believed that a witch would not be able to recite the prayer without making a mistake, as witches were believed to be controlled by the Devil. Puritans believed that the Devil would never allow his subjects to recite the Lord's words in full. This witch test was also used in Europe during the time of the Inquisition.

Witch Cake
One of the more unusual ways of finding witches was the baking of a Witch Cake. A cake was made from rye flour and the urine of afflicted girls. The cake was then fed to a dog. It was believed that when the dog ate the cake, the witch would feel pain and cry out, thus identifying herself.

Most of the convictions of the Salem Witch Trials were the result of testimony from supposed victims; those who claimed to have witnessed the accused bewitching people or behaving oddly. Even more controversial was the use of spectral evidence to convict people. Spectral evidence was evidence based on dreams and visions. Many accusers would claim that they saw the accused witch's spirit in a dream or vision; those visions were then used as evidence of guilt.

Sadly, these unusual methods of conviction resulted in the deaths of 20 people, and the torture and wrongful imprisonment of many more. It wasn't until much later that people began to see the error of these methods. Spectral evidence was eventually outlawed, and some of the accusers during the Salem witch trial period later came forward to admit that they had wrongly accused some or submitted false testimony. Unfortunately these realizations came too late for those who perished during this dark time in history.

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